Queer Eye producer David Collins didn’t get déja vu when he brought the show back on Netflix. Instead, he couldn’t stop thinking about how much has changed since the Bravo version of the show launched in 2003 and became a sensation.
On a streaming platform, “We have no commercial breaks!” Collins marveled in an interview with Deadline. “We don’t have recaps and tag-ins and tag-outs. We get to tell a whole story.”
Netflix has positioned the return of Queer Eye, which premieres February 7, as the first in its pipeline of unscripted originals.
Another key difference from the Bravo days, Collins added, is that while fans in the 2000s made the show appointment viewing, today’s fans will be able to watch all eight episodes at once.
“There’s no question that the water-cooler, appointment viewing and the Netflix experience are two different worlds,” Collins said. “I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, though.”
Netflix shows like Stranger Things and Making a Murderer have managed to build buzz even as people binged them, he noted, but it isn’t clear how the Queer Eye experience will feel this time around. “The unknown still is that we’re going to put eight episodes of Queer Eye, each one of them a little meal in itself. If you sit down, how many courses of that meal are you going to have?” Collins asked. “It will be interesting to see how binge-y it is, or whether people say, ‘I don’t know, I think I’m going to have one on Monday, one on Tuesday and three or four over the weekend.'”
The earlier version of the show, originally called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, ran for four years and changed not only the TV landscape but the cultural conversation around LGBT life. In the new version, a brand new “Fab Five” — stars Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown and Tan France — offer expertise to those who need it in areas like food and wine, fashion, grooming, culture and fashion. The show’s first season was shot in and around Atlanta last spring, another change from the original’s New York City identity.
Collins said he was struck during production by how many new frontiers the show was able to enter. “Fifteen years ago, we would never have been able to say ‘my husband.’ or ‘my boyfriend’ or, more importantly, ‘my kids.’ I’m a dad of twin 9-year-old girls and my life’s dramatically different,” he said. “Fifteen years ago, the Fab Five sort of swooped in and they were the glossy version of themselves. This version is much more true, much more authentic.”
The difference is evident in the new version’s aesthetic, he said. “It’s much more verité. We’re able to have much more of the flow of the docu-story that runs full. … As a viewer, I get to know the guys. I get to know that Bobby grew up as an evangelical Southern boy who had an interesting story. Tan France, a Muslim, ended up marrying a Mormon cowboy. All of these stories we get to learn now.”
In the Bravo version, Collins said, “we never did direct-to-camera interviews.” In the Netflix era, “The guys really get to speak their heart.”